Top 5 Great Christmas Movies to Watch on NOW TV 0 60

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It’s Christmas time and you know what that means – cramming in as many viewings of festive films as is humanly possible!

I’ve found Sky’s NOW TV Movies service to be a great source for this sort of thing, not only because of the great free trial ( 🙂 ) but also because they have a great selection, from stone cold classics to hidden gems that are well worth seeking out.

If you’re stuck for Christmas movies to watch and you wanna’ give the service a go, below I’ve rustled up a little top 5 list:

Elf (2003)

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For years there had been many Christmas movies that got firmly into the festive spirit but then along came this absolute gem that features the festive spirit in human form. Will Ferrell gives one of his most memorable and hilarious performances as Buddy, a man raised in the company of elves who discovers his real father (James Caan) lives in New York and so sets off on adventure to reunite with him, causing havoc wherever he goes. Cheesy though it may be, it’s nevertheless an eminently quotable, joyously fun celebration of all things Christmas that’s simply a must-watch this time of year.

Bad Santa (2003)

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If Elf is the absolute personification of Christmas then Bad Santa is the poisonous antidote for anyone who hates this season and everything for which it stands. Billy Bob Thornton is the hilarious obnoxious, foul-mouthed, child-hating Grinch who only chooses to dress up as a mall Santa in December so he can rob the stores at night with the help of his faithful dwarf “elf” sidekick Marcus (the incomparable Tony Cox). It’s not one for the easily offended but for those with a very dark, cynical sense of humour it’s an absolute hoot.

Die Hard (1988)

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“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”

It doesn’t get much more classic than this action movie milestone starring Bruce Willis as NYPD Detective John McClane who finds himself up against a smart group of terrorists, led by the ruthless Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), at a Christmas Eve party in the Nakatomi Plaza building. Great set-pieces that are grounded in at least some sort of reality, a terrific hero in John McClane, some insanely quotable dialogue and an all-time great villain add to make for arguably the single greatest action movie ever made. Modern day action movies – the increasingly superfluous and ridiculous follow-ups included – could go back and learn a thing or two from this.

Trading Places (1983)

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This sublime lifestyle-trading comedy from director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, The Blues Brothers) centres on a wily street con artist (Eddie Murphy) and a snobbish business investor (Dan Aykroyd) who suddenly find themselves living each other’s lifestyles as part of a cynical bet between two callous millionaires. This was one of the films that helped make Eddie Murphy a megastar (it was his second feature after 48 Hrs.) and he’s one top form as the quick-witted, sarcastic Billy Ray Valentine. Aykroyd is equally great as the down-on-his luck Louis Winthorpe III in a film that explores racial and class stereotypes while never forgetting its primary purpose of making you laugh.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

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Christmas movies don’t always have to be warm, fuzzy and family-friendly as this jet black and hilarious crime comedy from the one and only Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3) goes to show. A pre-Iron Man/mega fame Robert Downey Jr. stars as Harry Lockhart, a thief-turned-actor who gets involved in all sorts of murder and kidnapping hijinks alongside private detective “Gay Perry” (Val Kilmer) in the not-so-jolly land of Hollywood. Like Bad Santa, this isn’t for the easily offended but it’s got an absolutely wonderful script chalk full of some of the best, most self-aware dialogue (often spoken directly to the audience via RDJ’s snarky narration) so far this century, poking fun at everything from movie star vanity to the tropes of Hollywood movies themselves.

That’s it for our list. What are your favourite Christmas movies? Remember, if you fancy watching any of the movies above make sure to sign up for NOW TV Movies!

Note: This was a paid sponsored post but was entirely written by me and of my own opinion.

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I'm a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features. I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Review: Cineworld VIP Experience 0 181

I’ve been a Cineworld customer for many years now and an Unlimited member since my Uni days back in 2008. As a blogger (here and elsewhere) and film critic for The National newspaper, it’s been an invaluable and extremely cost-effective way of seeing as many movies as I can.

The recent refurbishment at the Renfrew Street location – hats off to Cineworld for keeping the cinema open as best as possible while all of this was going on – has promised big changes to how you can experience a trip to the movies. First the superscreen, then the fun novelty that is 4DX. But now they’ve added something of luxury that truly takes things to the next level.

I’m talking about the much anticipated VIP Experience, which is housed on the top floor of the humongous cinema. Straight away when you walk in you’re greeted at the doors by staff into a private lounge area with various comfortable seats and stools dotted around. There’s plenty of room – an impressive capacity of almost 160 people – so you don’t feel like you’re being crowded as you wait for your film to start. There’s a nice laid back atmosphere that’s quite hard to put your finger on without experiencing it for yourself.

VIP at cineworldPhotograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000www.martinshields.com© Martin Shields
VIP at cineworldPhotograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000www.martinshields.com© Martin Shields

Most impressive of the pre-showing experience, however, is the food and drink on offer. There’s a gourmet buffet to choose from prepared locally by a chef, featuring everything from pizza to fresh salads to cake bites. There’s also a stocked bar (not an open one, sadly, but reasonably priced!) and the usual cinema snacks like popcorn, nachos and hot dogs. It feels like something that you could really make a trip of, treating it as a date or family night where you count it as a meal as well as seeing a movie.

VIP at cineworldPhotograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000www.martinshields.com© Martin Shields
VIP at cineworldPhotograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000www.martinshields.com© Martin Shields

By far my favourite aspect of the VIP experience – I saw The Accountant on this occasion, which I’ll be reviewing next week – was the actual screening rooms themselves. It used to be that there was one big hall on the top floor with two smaller, frankly not-so-comfortable ones squashed together down the corridor but that is no more.

The new rooms are state-of-the-art, chic and intimate but still suitably spacy. Most importantly, as far as I’m concerned, there are large, leather La-Z-Boy chairs that recline for ultimate comfort. There are also little swiveling tray tables to hold all your snacks and drinks – a nice little touch. As comfortable as the new seats Cineworld has installed in the regular screens are, I have to see the reclining ones this experience offers are far superior.

VIP at cineworldPhotograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000www.martinshields.com© Martin Shields
VIP at cineworldPhotograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000www.martinshields.com© Martin Shields
VIP at cineworldPhotograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000www.martinshields.com© Martin Shields
VIP at cineworldPhotograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000www.martinshields.com© Martin Shields

The VIP Experience is a little pricey – £29 for standard ticket, £19 with an Unlimited card – but I would definitely say it’s worth it considering all the things you get with it, especially if you’re treating it as a big night out. Be warned though – once you’ve tasted it, you might not want to see a film any other way!

Deadpool and the Anti-Hero 0 51

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While the concept of the anti-hero is nothing new, the popularity of this archetype in recent decades certainly seems to be. Found as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, the anti-hero is simply someone who operates under some sort of moral ambiguity or who has some character flaws that keep him or her from being seen as a traditional hero.

Yet, for all of these flaws, we as an audience are drawn more and more to this type of character in everything from a watered down version in Disney films such as Tangled to hardcore offerings through television shows such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones – just to name a few. With the movie Deadpool currently in cinemas, we can give some new love to this most recent inductee of the anti-hero club.

Television, in particular, has offered up some of the darkest and scariest places and storylines of its history, with audiences eating it up and screaming for more. An anti-hero such as Walter White in Breaking Bad is someone we are simultaneously repulsed by and drawn to. Being forced to deal with a flawed healthcare system is something most of us can relate to fairly easily, and we applaud a character for fighting back in what he sees as the only means available to him, even while disagree with the lengths he goes to within the series. We sympathize with Walter, even when we don’t always agree with his choices.

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The same holds true for anti-heroes of past decades, with audiences embracing the concept of “The Man with No Name” from the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western Dollars trilogy of the 1960s and Michael Corleone of The Godfather fame. These characters are accepted along with their flaws because there is something about them and their situation that we can relate to and sympathize with. It’s the same reason that Han Solo tends to score higher on lists of the most popular Star Wars characters than Luke Skywalker, the series’ traditional hero, and why the original trilogy often tops lists of the best of the franchise.

Apparently, the double standard is alive and well within the anti-hero popularity phenomena, though, with audiences much more willing to accept men with flaws than women with them. We expect our female characters to support their flawed male counterparts and be instrumental in their development, but to not need someone else to develop themselves. Catwoman is one of the few exceptions to this idea, remaining a popular female anti-hero and thankfully still available for viewing through Netflix and DTV.

Marketing behind Deadpool plays on our sympathies and our curiosity by playing up the flaws in conjunction with the strengths. We can sympathize with the idea of someone previously used and rejected making a comeback with witty and sarcastic humor and some serious fighting skills. The character Deadpool gets to say and do what many of us would like to have the nerve to say and do to those that abuse, reject, or ignore our potential, turning his Special Forces skills to a mercenary lifestyle.

From Mad Max to Deadpool, our love for the anti-hero continues to grow as we’re given more opportunities to vicariously live out our fantasies of living in a complicated and conflicted world by acting according to our own flawed moral code – regardless of the legal or moral expectations. As long as we continue to fight the current structures of our society, the anti-hero will likely remain our favorite hero of choice, taking a stand and doing things we wouldn’t dare do ourselves but wish that we could.

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